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Ryan Hill, Richard Joyce, Tom Kelly, and Jack Madley all worked together for several years in the same leading Bristol recruitment firm until a year and a half ago decided to join forces to set up their own business as a team.

And with a recent rebrand just launched we thought this would be the perfect moment to shout about the newly named Evona (formerly We are Quattro).

Specialising in IT and engineering recruitment within the space sector, the four entrepreneurs have been on a rollercoaster of a journey, but they have experienced considerable success in the short time they’ve been up and running – with no intention of slowing down.

Passionate about their market, they are STEM ambassadors and partner with schools and universities to encourage students to explore the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths.

We spoke with Jack Madley and Richard Joyce to find out more.

TIMESTWO (X2): What made you decide to set up by yourselves?

Jack: “All four of us are ambitious people and we each individually knew we wanted to, at some point, run our own businesses. There were occasions in our careers that we each dreamed of the possibility of setting up our own agency but were concerned about going it alone. It was only when we realised we had all been having similar thoughts that we decided to join forces and turn our dreams into reality.”

X2: What were the frustrations you experienced when you were employed by an agency?

Richard: “Red tape and inflexibility are the main things. We all had ideas of how we wanted things to be. Changes we wanted to make in our previous employment could take a long time to happen and, at the level we had reached within our careers, we wanted to be able to make more of an impact on our own.”

X2: What were your initial fears in setting up your own business?

Richard: “We never feared failure because of the caliber of our team. We all have a winning mentality, which is fundamental to success.”

Jack: “We were also nervous about the reaction of our employers as they would be losing four of their long-standing and senior members of staff. But it was all received very well. They were professional and supportive. It was great to know that we were leaving on good terms because we are all very grateful for our time working there. The training and experience were invaluable and have given us a solid base to our careers.”

X2: Did you have any financial barriers to setting up your own business?

Richard: “With no salary and no pipeline, we would be starting from zero. As I’ve said, we had no doubts about being a success, but we planned for the worst-case scenario and were not intending to take dividends for the first 6-12 months. As it turned out, we got off to a fantastic start, so we were able to cover this much more quickly.”

Jack: “It wasn’t without sacrifice though. My wife and I had just had an offer accepted on a house, and we had to pull out as there was no way a mortgage would be agreed without evidence of income from the new business. The opportunity was too good to miss though, and we all felt the timing was right, we had to act now, so it was the right decision. And we have since bought an even better house in Bristol, so it has all worked out!”

X2: What has been your toughest challenge?

Jack: “The day to day operational side of the business was all new territory. None of us had experience in these areas so we needed to up-skill very quickly. There are so many moving parts to a business and we needed to source providers to support the infrastructure. The options are endless, it can be difficult to know where to start. We scrutinised everything on a microlevel which was incredibly time consuming.

“Some providers proved to be unreliable and the longer these things dragged on, the more we were having to take our hands off the tools, which is far from ideal when we were trying to get things off the ground.”

X2: What has been the impact on your personal life?

Richard: “We work with both UK and US clients, so the hours that we need to put in can be all consuming. There’s not a lot of time to do much else in the week which can put a distance between friendships. My friends wanted me to go see a new film with them on a Tuesday and it just wasn’t an option. It’s basically lockdown from Monday to Friday.”

Jack: “Initially, our health and fitness routines fell by the wayside. We were doing 14 hours a day, sometimes working until 11pm at night. We’ve since realised that health needs to be prioritised and scheduled in. You can’t do the job if you’re running on empty. We will be looking at creating a positive work-life balance for all new hires to make sure the team are firing on all cylinders.”

X2: What three words would you use to describe life as a founder?

Jack: “Exciting. Empowering. Fulfilling. Enlightening. Exhilarating. Can we have five?”

Richard: “We are so excited about the business. We’re buzzing to be in the office every day. I find myself going to bed at night looking forward to getting back to work, waking up feeling positive and energised for the day ahead.”

X2: What has made you want to reach out into education?

Jack: “We want to raise the curtain on the space sector to make it more accessible to students. There are hugely diverse opportunities within the industry, which will have a significant impact on the state of the environment and the world, both now and looking far into the future.”

X2: Did you ever consider getting investment?

Richard: “We discussed investment from day one and spoke to a couple of people in those initial stages, but we wanted to give it a shot by ourselves. There have been several times since that we have considered it and, for now, we want to keep growing organically, but we can see where investment could benefit us.”

Jack: “We are expanding the team and salaries have a big impact on the bottom line. We also want to ensure we are dedicating time to managing and developing the team, along with other areas of the business but it all takes our focus off the job at hand. Having investment would give us a bit of breathing room by covering salaries and taking some of the pressure off revenue generation.”

X2: What are your plans for the future of the business?

Richard: “Continue building the team and expand our Bristol office space. We already have plans to knock through walls so we can fit more desks in and have an open plan environment. We also want to set up offices internationally, into Europe and the US.”

X2: What would your advice be to anyone looking to set up their own recruitment business?

Jack: “You don’t know what you don’t know. We have had to learn as we’ve gone along and the learning curve has been steep. The operational elements are the things that take time – deciding on providers, partners and logistics. Outsource everything if you can so it’s not taking your eyes off the job.”

Richard: “In terms of investment, do your due diligence to see what your options are. Everyone is in such a different situation, it’s really a case by case basis. It depends what your end goal is, and that should be defined at the very beginning stages.”

Jack: “One of the myths about entrepreneurs is that they do it by themselves. There is always a team behind them and around them, with multiple channels of support from silent partners, investors, providers, even friends and family that get fully involved.”